First Lutheran Church has declared itself a Welcoming Congregation within the meaning of the ELCA’S AMMPARO initiative. The ELCA describes the general responsibility of a Welcoming Congregation as follows:
In obedience to Matthew 25:35, Welcoming Congregations agree to welcome migrant children and families, listen to their stories with respect to receive the divine blessings that they bring, pray for and share the gospel, provide emotional and spiritual support, accompany migrants to access local and institutional services as needed and advocate for justice for and with migrant families and children.
The specific agreement made by a Welcoming Congregation is to
- provide a contact person with a working knowledge of Spanish to offer the initial welcome, pray for the guest and introduce the guest to the congregation;
- pray for the children and families;
- provide a description of our ministries for a guidebook;
- refer guests as needed to medical, legal and pastoral resources; and
- prayerfully consider participation in ELCA advocacy
At its most fundamental, therefore, the responsibility of a Welcoming Congregations is to provide a “church home” for a migrant(s) and his/her family.
Nonetheless, Welcoming Congregations are encouraged to become involved in other ways as well. Among the examples of “Accompaniment” in the Executive Summary of the AMMPARO initiative:
- helping to ensure that children and families in the U.S. will have appropriate legal representation;
- assisting children who do not have sponsors;
- encouraging congregations to foster personal relationships between migrants and non-migrants
to better understand the multi-facetted challenges faced by migrants;
- urging congregations to become “safe places/gathering places” for migrants and volunteers; and
- encouraging congregations to develop service centers that focus on needed social services, including “wrap-around services” (e.g. education, life skills training, legal assistance, etc.).
One way in which members of a Welcoming Congregations may accompany a migrant(s) is to work as a team. Using a model that has been developed by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, five people (one of whom is bilingual in Spanish-English) commit to accompanying a migrant for a period of three to six months. The responsibilities undertaken by the team include accompanying the migrant to court, helping the migrant find legal counsel, and helping the migrant find housing. There are currently numerous migrants who have requested accompaniment. If you are interested in forming or being part of such a team, please contact Pastor Bernt or Pastor Kate.
As we move forward as a Welcoming Congregation, we expect to learn about other specific ways in which members may become involved, both locally and in the countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala themselves. We give thanks for the leadership of the ELCA in this regard, and we pray for those seeking asylum in the Unites States of America.